High representative warns Bosnian Serb leaders seek to split country

High representative warns Bosnian Serb leaders seek to split country
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest May 6, 2021

The high representative in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, warned in his report to the UN Security Council that ethnic Serb leaders are making a concerted effort to split the country, or failing that to roll back many reforms achieved during the last 25 years, and he called for “a decisive stand” to stop any division

Inzko told the UN Security Council the challenge to Bosnia’s once multiethnic society comprising Serbs, Muslims and Croats is being led by the Bosnian Serbs’ top politician, Milorad Dodik, who is the Serb member of the country’s three-member presidency, according to a transcript of his comments.

He said the Bosnian Serbs’ campaign “could have political and security implications not only for the country, but also the region, and the rest of Europe.”

While president of Bosnia's Serb entity Republika Srpska, Dodik sought to initiate a referendum on the entity's secession, and has repeatedly challenged the state-level authorities. 

In what he said is likely his last briefing to the council after 12 years as the international community’s high representative in Bosnia, Inzko strongly criticised what he called “the destructive long-term policy” of authorities in Bosnia’s Serb entity, Republika Srpska.

In his report, Inzko described a non-functioning country. Inzko said the government and the national parliament function poorly, do not pass any new laws and do not implement reforms.

Inzko described the pressure by the Bosnian Serb authorities on the EU military mission (EUFOR) to end its term in Bosnia as soon as possible as particularly worrying, which he said could again threaten peace and stability in the country.

After 12 years as high representative, Inzko said: “Today, I would have hoped that I could declare the job completed. Unfortunately, and much to my regret, Bosnia remains de facto a frozen conflict with unfinished peace, where political leaders continue to pursue wartime goals, generate divisive narratives and nationalistic political agendas and speak about dissolution of the state. The multiethnic and diverse society that existed prior to the conflict has all but disappeared, while it is becoming more difficult to defend the preservation of multiethnic spaces and resist the creation of mono-ethnic ones. Hate speech, the glorification of war criminals, and revisionism or outright genocide denial, despite the verdicts of international judicial bodies, remain very common in the political discourse.”

The high representative warned that “we are far from a situation that would allow changes to the post-Dayton arrangement in Bosnia & Herzegovina”. 

“Until there is a genuine, demonstrated commitment to peace and stability, and the durable stability and inviolability of Bosnia are irreversibly ensured, the international community must retain all the instruments at its disposal to address any potential threat, including the executive powers of the high representative – which I did not use for almost ten years – the maintenance of international judges in the Bosnian Constitutional Court, the international mechanisms in Brcko District, and the international military presence in Bosnia,” he said. 

Commenting on debates about changes to the country’s election law, Inzko said they should focus on the implementation of recommendations by the OSCE, the Group of States against Corruption (Greco) and the Council of Europe Venice Commission.

“Their purpose is to guarantee the integrity of the election process and the implementation of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights to eliminate discrimination against voters on the grounds of their ethnicity and place of residence,” Inzko said